When it comes to finding crappie on trees, concentration and patience are important. But nothing can make up for experience. 

“Year in and year out, the same trees usually hold crappie,” according to Rick Hill. “It may be the root structure or the bottom soil or a little change in depth. Or maybe they just like it. But if you catch fish by certain trees or groups of trees on one trip, go back to them over and over. 

“You’ll still catch fish as long as they are on that pattern.”

In the spring, there is a constant migration to the trees for six to seven weeks. If you catch a few out by one tree, more will usually move in — often within a day.

But one thing most fishermen never notice happens a bit later in the spring when crappie start spawning out. 

Hill approached one of his favorite trees, preparing to drop a brown hair jig right by the trunk, then said, “Nope, we are too late. See?” 

What he saw was literally hundreds of crappie fry swimming around in a bunch. He noted that anyone fishing there would be wasting their time.

The crappie had obviously nested there early and the fry had already appeared, about a quarter-inch long swimming around the tree in a circle trying to figure out what to do next. Most people would have never noticed, much less equated it to what was actually going on.

Lesson No. 2 should have been much more obvious. 

When Hill is crappie fishing, he always keeps his bait in the water. He doesn’t raise it from one spot and drop it in the next. He just slowly swims it from spot to spot. 

That’s why most people he fishes with spend more time holding the dip net for him than he does for them. 

The lesson?

“Those fish you caught…” he asked this writer. “Where was your bait when they hit it?”

Yep, in the water.

“Exactly,” he said. 

How simple is that?